Sri Rajagopalaswamy Temple
Sri Rajagopalaswamy temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is in (Raja) Mannargudi, in Tiruvarur district. The presiding deity here is also known as Rajamannar, while gudi, Telugu, is temple. Rajamannargudi, in course of time, became Mannargudi. The sanctum of the temple was built during the reign of the last great Chola emperor, Kullotunga (1070-1120), while the Vijayanagar monarchs and their Nayak successors built the grand outer structure. The temple is hailed as the king of the temples in the south. In front of the temple is the Garuda stambham, a 17m (54feet) granite pole, on top of which is a veritable shrine for Garuda: embellished with icons of Lord Narasungam etc. Nearby is the temple chariot (ratha) stand. The ratha is said to be second biggest in the state, after the one in Tiruvarur. Just past the sthambham is a mandapam, and after it the Rajagopuram. The impressive tower in 47m (155 feet) tall. It is the third tallest in the state, after the Srirangam and Srivilliputhur temples. In all there are seven mandapams. 24 sub-shrines and 16 gopurams, including the Rajagopuram.
The Nayak period (1540-1675) is generally considered as the golden period for the temples in and around Thanjavur, and it is said, the Mannargudi temple benefited the most during their rule. The greatest among the Thanjavur Nayaks, Vijayaranghava Nayak(1633-73), treated this temple as his family shrine. He arranged for granite blocks to be brought from Trichy to renovate the temple. Sculptural representations of Achuthappa Nayak (1580-1600), Vijayaraghava Nayak and his queen, Champakalakshmi, all in prayer, with folded hands, can be found in the Vadya Mandapam, outside the sanctum.
One has to cross several prakarams before getting into the sanctum, the abode of Sri Rajagopalaswami. The moolavar here is Para Vasudevar, flanked by Sridevi and Bhoodevi. In front is the utsava moorthy, Sri Viya Rajagopalaswamy, with Sri Rukmini and Sathyabhama. He stands here, alongside a cow, the right hand wielding a whip, while the left is on Sri Sathyabhama's shoulder. The divine consort here is Sri Sengamalavalli Thayar, in a separate shrine, in the southern prakaram. There are several sub-shrines, dedicated to Sri Andal, Kumudavalli Nachiyar, and the Alwars.
According to the sthala purana, Brahma, at one time, became haughty, imagining himself superior to all the other gods. However, he was brought to his senses by the timely advice of sages like Sanka. In a remorseful mood, he reached his place and did penance. Satisfied with Brahma's devotion, the Lord appeared before him. Rejuvenated and devoid of pride, Brahma then established a shrine for the Lord, installed the idols and celebrated the Rathotsava for 18 days.
The thousand-pillared mandapam is as rich in sculpture, as the one in Tiruvannamalai. Adjoining the temple is the Krishna theertham, a well-maintained holy tank. Staying overnight in this holy place is said to bring the benefit accrued by donating 1,000 cattle. about half-a-km from the temple, on the Kumbakonam road, is the Haridranadi, the temple's 23 acres tank. It was said at one time that half of Mannargudi was occupied by Sri Rajagopalswamy temple, and the other half by Haridranadi.
How to get there:
Mannargudi can be reached by road from Thanjavur, Kumbakonram or Pattukkottai, all of which are in the range of 35-40km. Tiruvarur, the district headquarters, is 28km.